Egypt: Military drops charges against 2 activists

AP News
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Posted: Aug 18, 2011 2:50 PM
Egypt: Military drops charges against 2 activists

Egypt's ruling military council, which has been widely criticized for subjecting protesters to military tribunals, dropped charges Thursday against two activists who criticized its generals through social networking sites.

The council said it excused both Asmaa Mahfouz and Louie Nagati because the two were "in a revolutionary condition which had an impact on their performance in public and political arenas," according to a statement posted on the council's Facebook page.

Mahfouz was charged Sunday with slander and inciting violence based on postings she made on Facebook and Twitter. Louie was arrested after the June 28 protests and charged with disturbing public security.

The council urged Egyptian youth and activists to "express their positions and opinion responsibly so as not to include an insult or harm."

During interrogation, the prosecutor cited as evidence Mahfouz's writings and a call to a private TV station in which she accused the country's rulers of planning an attack on protesters last month. She was quoted calling the military council "the council of dogs."

Mahfouz was also accused of inciting violence by criticizing on Twitter the slow pace of trials and warning that people may take justice into their own hands.

"Bottom line, if the judiciary doesn't get us our rights, no one should be crossed if there are armed groups, who carry out assassinations, since there is no law and no judiciary. No one should be crossed," Mahfouz wrote in an Aug. 10 tweet.

Mahfouz's prosecution triggered criticism of the military ruling council and several activists have called for "the third revolution" against "the military junta."

Rights advocates have criticized the army for referring thousands of Egyptians to military tribunals, which are known for swift and harsh sentences. Political activists and bloggers have been imprisoned for speaking against the army.

Egypt's ruling military council took over power after former President Hosni Mubarak stepped down on Feb. 11 under strong public pressure and 18 days of mass protests. Since then, army troops have violently cracked down on protesters who demanded the council carry out speedy reforms and uproot remnants of Mubarak's regime.

Most recently, army troops wielded batons and fired in the air to disperse dozens of activists holding a traditional Ramadan meal Aug. 5 in Cairo's central Tahrir Square.

Since then, Tahrir Square, which was the epicenter of the uprising that toppled Mubarak, has turned to a military zone where heavy army and police forces are permanently deployed to curb any attempt to protest.